A few years back, I tried coconut oil for cooking! I cooked eggs and some green veggies in it!
To be honest, at first, I did not like the way it smelled and tasted!
But then I continued using it as my main cooking oil and eventually grew fond of it:)
There were two possible reasons why I have been using coconut oil for many years now.
1] Being a Nutrition Advisor and a teacher to a lot of students, many started to ask me about whether they should use coconut oil for cooking.
To build confidence in whether I should recommend it to them, in most cases, I try a given food item (or a concept, etc.) for many months and experience it and understand how it affects my health.
Whatever I write is usually an extension of who I am, what I experience in my everyday life-includes my habits, my food choices, my lifestyle choices, and so forth.
2] I was somewhat bored with cooking my food in ghee:) and was looking for some variety in my meals. And coconut oil was the perfect food that I was excited to make a part of my lifestyle.
In this article, I will discuss everything that you need to know about coconut oil. Here are the sub-topics:
- What is Coconut Oil?
- Coconut Oil Nutrition Facts
- Saturated Fat in Coconut Oil
- Is Coconut Oil Good or Bad for Health?
- Conclusion and My Recommendation
What is Coconut Oil
Coconut is mother nature’s sweetest fruit. You can call it a nut or a seed.
Coconut oil is made either via dry or wet processing.
In the dry process, copra is created first. Copra is dried coconut meat, which is extracted from the shell and dried using sunlight or fire.
The wet process uses coconut milk from raw coconut instead of copra. The yield of the wet process, when compared with the dry method, is significantly less i.e., 10-15%.1<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut_oil>
Please note, the way any oil is processed will ultimately determine how healthy it will be.
Most commercially available oils are processed with the use of chemical agents. Some of them are partially hydrogenated, ultimately creating a very bad type of fat called trans fat.
For manufactures, transfat is good because it adds shelf life to the final product.
But for us, it’s best to avoid trans fats!
The words that you should look for are ‘Virgin‘ or ‘Extra Virgin‘ when shopping for oils.
These words signify that the oil is minimally processed and without the use of any chemical or foreign agents.
Another word to look for is ‘Cold Pressed‘ This denotes that the oil is extracted by using cold-pressed technology.
With this technology, no heat is given during processing.
This ensures that the nutrients are not altered structurally and are kept in their most natural state as possible.
Coconut Oil Nutrition Facts
Coconut Oil 15g (1 Tablespoon):
14g Total Fat
13g Saturated Fat
1.5g Monounsaturated Fat
0.5g Unsaturated Fat
~85 percent of coconut oil is saturated fat.
Saturated fat has a bad rep because they raise cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease.
However, most recent studies proved otherwise! You can read about saturated fat in this article, where I have busted this myth!
Saturated Fat in Coconut Oil
Lauric acid makes up ~47% of the saturated fat that is present in the coconut oil. The other fatty acids present are myristic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid.
Lauric acid is the largest of medium-chain triglycerides with 12 carbon chains.
Yes, it’s true coconut oil increases total cholesterol, but it’s mostly HDL-the good cholesterol. And this, in turn, reduces the risk of heart disease.2<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8644684/>
Lauric acid is a precurosr to monolaurin.
Monolaurin is a compound that is beneficial for us. Infants get it from the mother’s milk. It is antimicrobial and protects us against numerous pathogenic bacteria and protozoa.3<https://www.hilarispublisher.com/open-access/lauric-acid-as-potential-natural-product-in-the-treatment-of-cardiovascular-disease-a-review-1948-593X.1000107.pdf>
Now let’s look at the health benefits of cold-pressed virgin coconut oil.
Coconut Oil Health Benefits
Coconut Oil Gives Energy
15g of coconut oil gives about 135 calories, and most of the calories are in the form of MCT’s, i.e., medium-chain triglycerides.
Medium-chain triglycerides (abbreviated as MCTs) are a type of saturated fat with 6-12 carbon chains.
They are directly metabolized by the liver and used for energy. The excess is converted into ketones, which research has proved to be very beneficial for the brain.
And yes, you heard it right; they are not stored as adipose tissues in the body.
Coconut oil and Alzheimer’s
The primary source of fuel for the brain is glucose. People with Alzheimer’s have trouble metabolizing glucose for energy.
Ketones are formed when fats convert into energy. They can act as an alternative fuel for the brain.
However, to date, there is no evidence that coconut oil can help people suffering from Alzheimers.
Coconut Oil helps with Weight Loss
When it comes to weight loss, two things matter the most.
First is the total calories that you eat in a day, and second is where those calories are coming from.
If your TDEE is 2500 calories, you need to eat 2000 calories (20% calorie deficit) to lose weight.
Once you know the required calories that you need to eat based on your goals, you need to figure out your food choices.
I strongly recommend that a weight loss diet plan to have at least 30% of calories from healthy fats, because fat as a macronutrients helps avoid cravings and hunger.
Coconut oil is high in fat, and it helps you avoid cravings and hunger.
When I eat this at 11 am, I have no hunger and very minimal cravings until my dinner time.
The healthy fats in the egg yolk and coconut oil keep me satiated 🙂
Towards the end of this article, I have suggested how one can go about dividing their total fat intake into different types of fats.
Coconut Oil Is Good For Oral Health
There is a lot of bacteria in your mouth–both good and bad. The bad ones can cause bad breath, tooth decay, and gum diseases.4<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1570844/> 5https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK8259/> 6<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3633265/>
When you swish your mouth with coconut oil, the bacteria gets pulled in by the oil, and studies have proved that it works!7<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27084861/> 8<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18408265/>
Swishing coconut oil in one’s mouth is what my brother did for many months.
I tried it once but did not like the taste. Plus, the practice requires you to swish it for at least ten minutes, something that I was not willing to do.
So I stuck with brushing my teeth twice a day with a herbal toothpaste.:)
Coconut Oil Can Be Heart-Healthy
Epidemiological evidence9<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4892314/> drawn from populations like Kerela (South India), Sri-lanka, and the Philippines, where consumption of coconuts is very high, stated that coconut oil has no effect on cardiovascular health.
These indigenous populations consume coconut in its raw form, like coconut meat, milk, and water.
The processing of oils (coconut and other oils) is a relatively recent phenomenon where the natural properties are altered with processing and the use of chemical agents.
It’s also important to note that these observational studies have limitations and cannot always prove causation.
This is because they have a strong bias towards the underestimation of habitual lifestyle habits like energy intake, food choices, level of activity, and so forth of the indigenous population.
A 2014 review article by Uday Kumar et al. in the Journal of Bioanalysis and Biomedicine concluded that lauric acid (which comprises almost half of the saturated fatty acid in virgin coconut oil) is responsible for an increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) thereby decreasing the total/HDL cholesterol; ratio which in turn decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.10<http://www.aulamedica.es/nh/pdf/9642.pdf>
A 2017 randomized controlled trial where volunteers consumed 15g of virgin coconut oil concluded no safety issues for eight weeks. The daily consumption of coconut oil increased HDL significantly by 5.72mg/dL.11<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5745680/>
Conclusion and My Recommendation
How much coconut oil should you consume to reap the above benefits?
Let me explain it again using an example.
Let’s say you eat a 2000 calorie diet. And you are well aware of the benefits of including healthy fats in your diet. So you decide to include 30% of calories from healthy fats.
30% of 2000 calories comes to 600 calories, which equates to 66g of fat.
The question that arises here how to divide this 66g of fat into different types of fat.
Here is my recommendation:
40-50% of your total fat intake should come from your cooking oil.
For cooking oil, always choose fats high in saturated fats.
This is because oils high in saturated fats are very stable when heated and do not oxidize or turn rancid easily.
Most vegetable oils high in omega-6 are easily oxidized and are very sensitive to heat, air, and light. This increases the free radical load in your body, causing a host of health problems.
Another important reason why you should use ghee or coconut oil for cooking is that it will optimize your omega-3 and omega-6 ratio.
You can read more about omega-3 and omega 6 ratio in this article on unsaturated fats.
So here is a break down of different types of oils and fats you can consume daily:
30g from Cooking Oil.
15g Dressing Oil. Choose Extra Virgin Olive Oil or flaxseed oil if you want to boost your Omega-3 content in your diet.
You can consume about 10-15g fats from nuts like Walnuts and Almonds and cashews.
And finally, reserve 15g of fat which you can eat from ~3 egg yolk.
Obviously, the percentage of calories may vary based on your unique diet, but take this as a rough guide to distribute your fat calories.
What do you think about this article? Have any questions or comments? Let me know below!
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